Eric Berlow: How complexity leads to simplicity


To demonstrate the inter-connectedness that occurs at just about every level of our existence and to understand what Einstein meant (below) please “take 5” for this presentation.

“I wouldn’t give a nickel for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”                                                                             Albert Einstein

Reducing complexity: Looking at the “big picture” – the macro or system view – makes it easier to deal with the small problems – to micro manage. Read more of this post

All you could ever want to know about why complexity is THE big deal


This video by David Korowicz [Complexity, Economy, Civilisation & Collapse] will answer the questions you may not have even thought to ask yourself (or others). His holistic perspective, born out of inter-disciplinary thinking tells you all you need to know about complexity, the folly of a “silo mentality” and the power of interdependence.

DK provides some superb illustrations including something as, apparently, simple as buying a loaf. At the other end of the scale he deals (briefly) with Thermodynamics and the “unseen” complexity of the Global Supply Chain driven by supply and demand. Complexity is the link. Read more of this post

Update: …More lessons from nature


COMMENTS (refer to original item for more):

After a random event like a forest fire some life remains in the scorched earth. However, apart from lost structure as an outcome [criticality] any remaining “structure” will have been starved of nourishment during the fire [ becoming fragile]. Survivors were those , often with the most robust root system, best equipped to survive, repair and stabilise. Then to renew and increase the inter-connections that are the framework and structure [complexity] that defines a complex dynamic system.

As the effectiveness of the interdependencies grows so does the complexity, diversity, robustness, chances of survival and…the ability to withstand [uncertainty] most events that beset a forest!!!

Dynamic systems are inherently complex and robust with sustainability “built in”. Exo/endo events that affect the stability, functionality, interdependencies, robustness are first reflected in the complexity of the system…..

I can’t, wouldn’t, claim credit for this extremely interesting extract from a really well informed blog by Ashwin Parameswaran – the link to the item is below and, if you like this I would recommend a visit. In view of the continuing displays of utter dis-engagement from the real world – where citizens dwell – by [the bankers’ and Corporations’ pawns] those we refer to as “Political Leaders”, I really wanted to get this out there for some thought … Read More

via A heid full of mince but at least it’s my mince!

The Resilience Stability Trade-off: More lessons from Nature (Chancellor take note!)


I can’t, wouldn’t, claim credit for this extremely interesting extract from a really well informed blog by Ashwin Parameswaran – the link to the item is below and, if you like this I would recommend a visit.

In view of the continuing displays of utter dis-engagement from the real world – where citizens dwell – by [the bankers’ and Corporations’ pawns] those we refer to as “Political Leaders”, I really wanted to get this out there for some thought. Surely if a Government “micro manages” a budget, to achieve short term results – which is entirely in keeping with the culture that got us all into this mess – without fully considering social costs they are merely deferring the inevitable and extremely unlikely to achieve their goals at macro level!? The national economy is, in itself, a Complex Adaptive System (CAS) and a node/hub within the global CAS so, unless a holistic view is taken, a sustainable progressive strategy is unlikely.

But please don’t linger too long on my own comments as the full article is worth reading from economic, ecological and social perspectives. Complexity is the thread.

Mancur Olson. In his final work “Power and Prosperity”, Olson notes: “subsidizing industries, firms and localities that lose money…at the expense of those that make money…is typically disastrous for the efficiency and dynamism of the economy, in a way that transfers unnecessarily to poor individuals…A society that does not shift resources from the losing activities to those that generate a social surplus is irrational, since it is throwing away useful resources in a way that ruins economic performance without the least assurance that it is helping individuals with low incomes. A rational and humane society, then, will confine its distributional transfers to poor and unfortunate individuals.” Olson understood the damage inflicted by rent-seeking not only from a systemic perspective but from a perspective of social justice. The logical consequence of micro-stabilisation is a crony capitalist economy – rents invariably flow to the strong and the result is a sluggish and an inegalitarian economic system, not unlike many developing economies. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not limiting handouts to the poor that defines a free and dynamic economy but limiting rents that flow to the privileged.

via The Resilience Stability Tradeoff: Drawing Analogies between River Flood Management and Macroeconomic Management at Macroeconomic Resilience.

I have taken a final thought on the ecological perspective, or learning “lessons from nature”, from a contribution to a recent discussion on “Power Laws and Accidents” by an eminent mathematician:

Adaptive processes tend to be based on sample stats…and hence tend to seriously under-estimate the dangers when the sample stats tend to significantly under-estimate the true parameters.

Epidemics fit this model. Perhaps more surprisingly, so do forest fires: the patterns of burnt ground versus growth at various stages evolve to provide stability. More trees leads to disaster. Less trees leads to more trees. In between there can be a sustainable forest, with periodic moderate fires. If we make an analogy with finance, then in finance we try to build fire-breaks and then to have as many trees as possible. This can work for a while, but at some point the defenses will be breached, and then one has a wipe-out. It is more sustainable to have a forest with random lightning: if it is frequent enough the forest will never grow to a dangerous condition.

Kenneth Rogoff: The BP Oil Spill’s Lessons for Regulation


Project Syndicate is a “home for thought leaders”: Kenneth Rogoff is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and was formerly chief economist at the IMF.

The basic problem of complexity, technology, and regulation extends to many other areas of modern life. Nanotechnology and innovation in developing artificial organisms offer a huge potential boon to mankind, promising development of new materials, medicines, and treatment techniques. Yet, with all of these exciting technologies, it is extremely difficult to strike a balance between managing “tail risk” – a very small risk of a very large disaster – and supporting innovation.

Economics teaches us that when there is huge uncertainty about catastrophic risks, it is dangerous to rely too much on the price mechanism to get incentives right. Unfortunately, economists know much less about how to adapt regulation over time to complex systems with constantly evolving risks, much less how to design regulatory resilient institutions. Until these problems are better understood, we may be doomed to a world of regulation that perpetually overshoots or undershoots its goals.

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